How can I realign my hips’?
‘My shoulder is sore, can you work on it?’
Often, my clients will ask questions like these in a class or massage treatment, and it takes me a while to answer.
See – this isn’t an easy question – for different reasons than you may think. Sure, I can tell you which particular ‘stretch’ or posture you can do to target that muscle specifically, or I can focus all my efforts there in a massage treatment – but only if you want your poor muscle to become even more stressed out than it already is.
I believe that people cannot be isolated down to different ‘parts’ see. We are one organisam, with all our different muscles, body systems, emotions and thoughts affecting how we move and respond to daily life. More often than not, a stiff muscle is the result of a habituated pattern, a reaction to the world, that we may not even realise we are doing. Tightening our jaw when we are stressed for instance, or hunching our shoulders up by our ears.
So if you’re looking to encourage an area / muscle in the body back to health, you need to first cultivate an awareness of how and why it became like that. Notice how you are holding yourself, when the tension creeps in, when it starts to ache, and you will start to identify the pattern or reasons behind it. This is when regular yoga practice really comes into its own. Through yoga, you get to know yourself better; you notice things about your body you never realised. I’ve had students tell me they had no idea their legs were different lengths, or they realised they have felt no connection with their left side for years.
Then you can start to have a choice in how you respond, to notice the tension arriving and softly let it go, instead of it taking over the driving seat. Through yoga you can practice this ability to let go, to soften, to breathe and release, time and time again.
As Pete Blackaby – osteopath, yoga teacher and author of ‘Intelligent Yoga’ points out – individual muscles do not function in isolation. Movements are controlled by our nervous system, and focusing simply on one muscle is too one-dimensional a view.
‘The body is not like a machine, an assembly of various parts put together to create a greater whole, and we must stop thinking of ourselves like that. We are organisms that evolved in complex ecosystems, with layers of interdependence built on other layers of interdependence. There are no units that act alone or have any sense of autonomy – there are only relationships.’
Of course, there are times when a muscle might need a good old stretch – you’ve just been for a long run, or have been sitting on a plane too long. And injuries have a whole other set of questions and circumstances to investigate.
But time and time again I see through coaching, yoga and massage – that it’s the awareness of habits and patterns – both physical and mental – that holds the biggest potential for change. Because once you realise something, you just can’t ‘un-realise’ it. And therein lies the power and freedom to make a different choice. One that leads you towards a freer, healthier, happier you.
If you’d like to chat more about how yoga, massage or coaching (or a combination of all three!) could help you to make positive change in your life, contact me for your free consultation.